Ode to the Scenic Theater

The Rochester Economic Development Department, in collaboration with the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts, recently commissioned local sculptor Adam Pearson to create a special piece of art for the park in Central Square.

According to Economic Development Director Michael Scala, the sculpture is made from a piece of Art Deco railing that was salvaged from the old Scenic Theater during extensive renovations in 2021.

The theater, built in the early 1900s, was the cultural center of the downtown for many years. Originally a vaudeville house that specialized in live performances, the theater was later converted to show movies. Unfortunately, it was closed for good in the mid-1980s, following several attempts to keep it open.

After many years of vacancy and significant deterioration, Chinburg Properties Inc. took over ownership of the building, converting it into rental apartments and commercial storefronts.

According to Scala, the piece of salvaged railing would have originally been used to lead theater patrons to the second-floor balcony and restrooms.

“We were touring the building one day and saw that the contractors set aside a section of the old railing and we felt it had to be preserved,” said Scala. “The developers readily agreed to give it to the City and I subsequently worked with Matt Wyatt (from the Rochester Museum of Fine Arts) to discuss the most suitable option for the piece.”

According to Wyatt, the best way to keep the history preserved for years to come would be to make it into a sculpture and install it in Central Square park, where the Parson Main monument is located.

“It was essentially scrap metal when we found it — but we knew it was significant,” said Wyatt. “We commissioned our friend, the talented Adam Pearson, to create a sculpture that would pay homage to the theater’s rich history.”

Pearson was able to reassemble the pieces into a work of art that not only honored the past, but helps to enhance the visual landscape of the park.

Next to the sculpture is a plaque that commemorates the sculpture and the history of the theater. The plaque also includes an image of the former Scenic Theater marquee.

“With the photo and the sculpture, people can see the old and the new from one vantage,” said Scala. “It was a great way to preserve history, add art to downtown, and let future generations know more about our past.”

The sculpture is now on display in Central Square, in direct view of the former Scenic Theater.

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